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customer success manager

How to Hire a CSM: Tips for Evaluating Candidates

The Betts Team
June 22, 2018

Customer Success Managers are integral to the client experience. But with the role itself being relatively new, sourcing candidates to fill your open customer success positions can be a bit of a challenge. Chances are you won’t find someone with years of direct experience, which means you have to get a little creative in determining the skills to recruit for.

To make things a little easier, we’ve narrowed down a few of the top traits to look for along with a few must-ask interview questions.

Leadership Ability – Obviously in any management position, the ability to lead others is a critical component of success. A customer success manager is no different. And while leadership can certainly be taught, those who naturally possess this skill will be even more valuable to your team. Look for individuals who excel in their current roles and also demonstrate thought leadership outside of their roles.

Relationship Building – The best CSMs are excellent at building and fostering relationships, both with their colleagues as well as their customers. A great way to assess relationship building skills is to see how a candidate engages with yourself and others on the hiring team. Do they have good follow-up and follow-through? Did they send a thank you note? The way they treat you is a good indicator of how they will ultimately treat your customers.

Passion – Regardless of what background the candidate you’re considering happens to have, a deep passion for success is something that will greatly benefit your business. Does he or she take pride in his or her work and get satisfaction out of going the extra mile? Would he or she be willing to take a bullet for the customer (or from the customer in some cases?) Look for someone who exemplifies what it means to take pride in one’s work.

Business and Tech Acumen – Your CSMs don’t necessarily have to have a degree from Harvard, but they should at least be capable of conducting credible conversations with others at various levels. In other words, your customer success manager should be able to grasp their customers’ business objectives, be comfortable speaking with senior level executives and be capable of confidently recommending and delivering appropriate solutions.

Industry Experience – As mentioned, finding candidates with extensive experience in a customer success manager role may not be possible, but finding someone who has experience in your particular industry can help make the transition into the role go a bit smoother. Of course, if you happen to come across the perfect candidate who doesn’t have a background in your domain, it’s also possible to bring them up to speed, especially if they possess the above characteristics.

Interview Questions to Ask

Now that you have a clearer picture of what your ideal candidate will look like, you can take things a step further to assess for those skills and traits during the interview process. Here are a few recommended questions to ask:

  •       Why customer success?
  •       How do you measure success in your current role?
  •       How do you demonstrate value in the first phone call or email?
  •       How do you communicate with customers if you can’t resolve a problem right away?
  •       What’s the toughest situation you’ve ever handled?
  •       How would you deliver bad news to customers?
  •       Describe our product or service in a single sentence.
  •       Explain to me how [product feature] works.
  •       Pitch me on an upsell of our product’s next tier-level.
  •       How might you change our product or service?

Hiring a rock star customer success manager doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. You just have to know what to look for and what to ask when evaluating candidates. The tips above should help you narrow down your selection and hone in on the perfect person for the job.

Need a little help? That’s what we’re here for. Get in touch today!